A Day At The Bench

DINE and Destinations - - ONTARIO - By Adam Wax­man

When the shores of Lake Iro­quois re­ceded, they left be­hind a wa­ter ta­ble of wine. To­day, a sunny day’s short drive leads us to so many ex­cit­ing vine­yards that bear the fruit of this rich soil. Like trea­sure hunters with maps in hand, we set out to dis­cover these gems.

There is a new wave of wine­mak­ing hap­pen­ing in the Twenty Val­ley wine re­gion based on the Ital­ian tra­di­tion of Amarone wine. Ap­pas­si­mento is a style that in­volves con­trolled dry­ing of grapes to in­crease the con­cen­tra­tion of all their po­ten­tial. It’s not that any­one was look­ing for a “new tech­nique” to try, as much as it is about try­ing to main­tain con­sis­tent qual­ity from sea­son to sea­son in a re­gion that can be very dif­fi­cult for mak­ing wine. The re­sult? I defy any­one to taste these On­tario wines and not be ab­so­lutely wowed by them.

Canada’s first ap­pas­si­mento is a Mag­notta Win­ery blend. They say you never for­get your first, but in this case, I keep go­ing back to it. Gabe Mag­notta loved full-bod­ied reds, and he sought to prove that On­tario could cre­ate a full-throt­tle red to ri­val Italy’s Amarone reds. He was right! Enotrium is a volup­tuous blend of Mer­lot, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc, and it’s full of sweet tan­nins and very ripe fruits like cas­sis, black­berry and plum, with a hint of cloves. We love Mag­notta for it’s ice wine, iced ap­ple wine and vast se­lec­tion of ta­ble wines. One quick stop at their Beamsville lo­ca­tion, and we can pick up all the es­sen­tials.

Cor­ner­stone Es­tate Win­ery does not try to make the same wine twice. Here, it’s not about con­sis­tency, its about max­i­miz­ing po­ten­tial and ap­pre­ci­at­ing that each har­vest is dif­fer­ent from the last. Pinot Gris, nat­u­rally fer­mented and kiln-dried, has a cop­per hue and is more com­plex and ro­bust then most. Stoned White is a unique blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardon­nay Musque, Sauvi­gnon Blanc and Gewurz­traminer that is a nu­anced re­flec­tion of the ter­roir. The 2010 Cab Mer­lot has soft, sweet and chewy tan­nins, and is very drink­able. In the tast­ing room, Jerry Kopan­ski proudly show­cases his range of wines--from ap­pas­si­mento and ri­passo to an in­tense port wine.

An­drzej Lip­in­ski is one of the names gen­er­at­ing a lot of buzz these days. For Lip­in­ski, this is art­work. “You have to know the fruit and dry­ing process. You are em­pha­siz­ing what hap­pens in the vine­yard and coax­ing the good out of the fruit that is there,” he tells me. Lip­in­ski is drawn to ap­pas­si­mento be­cause, for him, it’s like, “putting the fruit un­der a mag­ni­fy­ing glass and fo­cus­ing on the good qual­i­ties”. His Big Head Wines are in­deed big. Nat­u­rally fer­mented, cigar-bar­relaged wines are mas­ter­fully tended straight through to the bot­tle for op­ti­mal fruit con­cen­tra­tion. The essence of Chenin Blanc is of an el­e­gant lemon-vanilla cream pie. Syrah is like an am­brosia plum, with vel­vety depth for a won­der­ful mouth feel. How big can you go? At 15.5% al­co­hol, you can’t get big­ger than Big­ger Red. Petit Ver­dot, Caber­net Franc and Mer­lot make a lush and chewy blend­ing of sweet ripe berries and flo­ral notes with a dash of co­coa and pep­per.

While we can nib­ble at each win­ery stop, we find the “who’s who” of wine­mak­ers at Au­gust Restau­rant and About Thyme Bistro. Seated in Au­gust, we in­dulge in de­lec­ta­ble crispy duck rolls with peach and cayenne mar­malade. These lo­cal favourites pair very eas­ily with wine, and owner, Clay­ton Gil­lie is happy to make sug­ges­tions. Across the street at About Thyme, chef Ryan Shapiro de­signs his menu around the lo­cal wines that we might not find any­where else. I feel great pride see­ing bot­tles of On­tario wine on each ta­ble. We in­dulge in a sin­fully rich and savoury duck con­fit pou­tine with foie gras. Staunchly sup­port­ive of lo­cal winer­ies, chef Shapiro sources his lamb and duck di­rectly from bio­dy­namic winer­ies like Tawse Win­ery and Feather­stone Es­tate Win­ery. One of the orig­i­nal ad­vo­cates of slow food and farmto-ta­ble cook­ing is The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. Here, Ni­co­lette No­vak leads cook­ing classes into the evening and culi­nary events that cel­e­brate fresh and lo­cally

sourced food with wines made from hand-pruned grapes. Look out for the ad­dic­tive ginger-ap­ple won­tons with rum-spiked dulce de leche.

Gra­ham Ren­nie, along with renowned Malivoire wine­maker Shi­raz Mot­tiar, has just vaulted the bar up very high with Ren­nie Es­tate Win­ery’s “G” As­sem­blage. Mer­lot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv are dried for 70 days and aged 18 months in French oak, for a deep vel­vety bowl of rich, sweet and soft tan­nins. A full-bod­ied, well-in­te­grated blend, this volup­tuous elixir is sim­ply sub­lime. We look for­ward to more from this beau­ti­ful bou­tique win­ery pro­duc­tion.

New to the field is Kew Vine­yards Es­tate Win­ery. Charmed by this el­e­gant 160yearold farm­house, we are drawn to its coun­try-kitchen feel. Strolling through the vine­yards in the sun­shine with a glass of Marsanne, Rous­sanne and Viog­nier and nib­bling on lo­cal cheese and fresh-baked bread, I am so ex­cited by my new find! With its fresh ex­otic fruit, lemon, caramel and toasty notes, wine­maker Philip Dowell has pro­duced the first-ever Her­mitage-style wine in On­tario, and it is lovely. Soldier’s Grant stands and de­liv­ers. Sev­enty-five-per­cent Cab Sauv, 25% Cab Franc and about 20% of that Cab Franc is ap­pasi­mento. Think blue­berry jam with a mélange of sum­mer-ripe berries and a rich sprin­kling of co­coa. Its sweet mocha and soft tan­nins make this a de­li­cious wine. Her­itage is a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Mer­lot, of which 50% is ap­pasi­mento and 50% is ri­passo for a spec­tac­u­lar con­flu­ence of in­tense, sweet and chewy tan­nins.

What’s buzzing at nearby Rose­wood Es­tates Win­ery In ad­di­tion to lus­cious wild­flower honey from their own api­ary; and an el­e­gant honey-sweet Har­vest Gold meade that pairs beau­ti­fully with Ca­jun dishes; Rose­wood’s Süss­re­serve Ries­ling is so vi­brant and re­fresh­ing. Made by adding un­fer­mented Ries­ling juice back into the wine after the base wine has been fer­mented, it cre­ates a won­der­fully struc­tured bal­ance of acid­ity, sweet­ness and com­plex­ity that is per­fect for sum­mer. The Lock, Stock, and Bar­rel as­sem­blage of Cab Sauv, Mer­lot, Cab Franc and Petit Ver­dot is a dark and in­tense plum-y wine, with ro­bust cher­ries and choco­late that en­cap­su­lates the ter­roir and the ta­lent flour­ish­ing in Ni­a­gara now.

There is so much more to dis­cover on the back roads of the es­carp­ment, and we rec­om­mend you hop into your car and go ex­plor­ing for your­selves. Cheers!

Top Right: Kew Vine­yards Es­tate Win­ery bou­tique Bot­tom Right: Au­gust Restau­rant Crispy Duck Rolls Op­po­site Page: Red 7, Ken­dall Hur­ley Gallery www.kendall­hur­ley­gallery.com

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